Operation Backlog Completion 2024
May 222017

Over the weekend, I finished reading Thrawn by Timothy Zahn.

When I first heard about Thrawn’s return to Star Wars canon, my excitement nearly overwhelmed me. That feeling returned as I read Thrawn, the first novel featuring Thrawn outside of the old Expanded Universe.

It is a rather slow-paced novel, but it’s worth it for its fantastic look at Mitth’raw’nuruodo, better known as Thrawn.

In the old novels, Thrawn was an oddity, a nonhuman Grand Admiral in the human-centric Empire, and it gave the impression that the Empire couldn’t ignore his skill but wished they could forget about him. Here, we see that in action, as Thrawn encounters the political machinations of xenophobic Imperials determined to see him fall.

But while Thrawn might not be used to such politics (and it’s interesting to see a Thrawn who isn’t good at everything), he’s the brilliant tactician he always was. The book is filled with scenes of Thrawn in his glory as he analyzes, strategizes, and out-maneuvers everyone around him.

In fact, Thrawn lets us get into the character’s head more than ever before. Each chapter begins with a short entry from his journal, and several chapters are told from his point of view. In these point of view sections, other characters’ reactions and physical changes are written in the present tense, and while that was jarring at first, it does demonstrate the way Thrawn reads people–and how he just thinks differently.

He isn’t the only viewpoint character, and while I wasn’t terribly fond of Arihnda Pryce (especially once she got ruthless), I loved Eli Vanto, who works alongside Thrawn as his aide.

While Eli is human, he faces his own struggles (he’s from Wild Space, and people from the core of the galaxy look down on him), and his growing bond with Thrawn was just as enjoyable as getting to watch Thrawn’s brilliance at work through Eli’s eyes.

It was so enjoyable, I was a significant way through the book before I remembered that I shouldn’t be rooting for these guys! They’re with the Empire! They’re the bad guys!

I think it’s part of what makes Thrawn so fascinating. He’s not like the typical Star Wars villain. He’s fair. He does everything he can to avoid the unnecessary loss of life. He’s… a good person? He’s one of the “bad guys,” and he’s incredibly dangerous, but it’s difficult to really dislike him.

Click for Thrawn spoilers
In fact, his overall goal is pretty interesting: ally with the Empire because it’s strong, rise high in the ranks, and become influential enough to make sure a more benevolent ruler eventually succeeds Palpatine.

His immediate motivation for joining the Empire parallels that from the original Expanded Universe. Here, Thrawn believes the Empire’s strength makes it a necessary ally against a far greater evil. In the original novels, Palpatine convinced Thrawn that an Empire would be necessary to stand against a greater threat lurking in the galaxy.

The “Far Outsiders” Palpatine warned about were the Yuuzhan Vong, but what are the threats Thrawn and the Chiss expect to fight in the new canon?

Will the Yuuzhan Vong become canon again? (That would be controversial, for sure.) Is a new greater enemy waiting in the shadows?

Or, is it whatever Snoke is? After all, we still don’t even know his species.

If you’re a fan of Grand Admiral Thrawn, you’ll probably love Thrawn… and if you’re unfamiliar with the character, this is a good chance to see why he’s so popular.

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